Alcest - Spiritual Instinct

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For almost two decades now, Alcest have existed as outsiders. Too splendorous for the notoriously unbending French black metal scene from which they emerged, yet too unapologetically murky for the post-rock circles they’ve come to orbit, the Bagnols-sur-Cèze duo have risen in untainted isolation, a genuine musical curio. Like forlorn silhouettes against the last ebb of sunset, however, therein lies the magic of their dreamily nocturnal blackgaze blend.

Central to their magic are the soulful perceptions of mainman Stéphane ‘Neige’ Paut. His dazzling childhood visions of celestial, heavenly planes provided the ambient blueprint for his music, but it’s that alienation from earthly existence that makes up the sonic isolation with which fans are so intoxicated. Bon cœur ne peut mentir – the heart sees further than the head.

On Spiritual Instinct, that existential duality comes into more crystalline yet also more chaotic focus. Although recent releases – 2014’s Shelter, 2016’s Kodama – emphasised greater introspection, these six tracks unfold as an unprecedented gaze into the frontman’s soul. “This time I had something urgent to put on the table,” Neige explains. “It is a very cathartic record – something I needed to get out of me.” What’s emerged is an exploration: of the heavenly and the primal, the savage and the beautiful, the ultimate mystery of what it actually is to be human.

1. Les Jardins de Minuit
2. Protection
3. Sapphire
4. L’île des Morts
5. Le Miroir
6. Spiritual Instinct